Friday, October 26, 2007

Big Bang!

Comet 17P/Holmes is in outburst! Two days ago this periodic comet some 2.4 AU away from the Sun and 1.6 AU from Earth, brightened unexpectedly by a MILLION fold from 16th magnitude to nearly 2.5! You can read more about it here.

The above image was obtained through the University of Arizona's Steward Observatory 2.3 meter telescope atop Kitt Peak. The large round outer coma is about 2 arcminutes in diameter as viewed from Earth - or nearly 87,000 miles across - the size of the planet Jupiter! Given that this shell of dust was generated two days ago (~50 hours) that works out to be a expansion rate of almost 870 miles per hour! Quite a bang!

Credit: University of Arizona - Paul Smith, Dennis Means, Dave Harvey.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Runnin' with the Big Dogs

Well - just got back from the VATT where I was privilaged to work with the crack team of VATT engineers - learning how to properly pump down the CCD dewar and prep the observatory for the next run. Here are a few snapshots from the trip.

While enroute to the telescope our chief pilot managed to achieve a mid-air with a swarm of bees! A most awesome event as you can see.

Below is the vacuum pumping station and CCD dewar that we trained on. Pretty cool eh?

After running with the "Big Dogs" for two days, our instructor (flashing the gang sign and with a pole coming out of his head - geez and I call myself a professional!) shows us how its done.